But not the corridors of power...
The Auckland Regional Council is Auckland's main heritage guardian. It has gone to war on several occasions while I've been on Council. It spent hundreds of thousands in expert evidence and legal advice protecting maori dump sites (middens) and colonial earth works at Long Bay. This applied energy means that the private land owners of that land cannot, now, develop that land or urbanise it. And I supported that action. New Zealand - and Auckland especially it seems - is very short of heritage and history because it has a habit of destroying it.
Tank Farm is another very good example. A great slice of Auckland Waterfront. With a fair distribution of pre-second world war buildings of considerable heritage and character. ARC has left few stones unturned in pursuit of development protection for those buildings - especially against demolition. Another blog on this site contain pictures of all of those buildings. You can see it at:
Here, ARC has made private owners of those buildings jump through all kinds of hoops if it is their wish to develop their land.
Yet here we have Queens Wharf, in public ownership now for about 2 weeks after transferring the wharf from Ports of Auckland ownership to ARC and Government, and we have the extraordinary activity of ARC - owner and regulator - pushing with huge haste for the demolition of cargo sheds which were built not before second world war - these sheds were built before the first world war. 1912 I am advised.
"Practice what you preach" - was a phrase used by more than one ARC councillor in the debate that occurred this Monday in at the ARC. But to no avail.
If it was not for the letter from the Historic Places Trust - calling for a proper heritage assessment of wharf and structures - the vote to approve dismantling would have been a doddle. As it is, ARC's decision to dismantle is subject to the outcome of consultation with the Historic Places Trust and presumably to it carrying out its own Heritage assessment.
The word "dismantle" is now being used instead of "demolish". The Chair of ARC has begun using it lately. One or two ARC councillors like it too. There is talk of using some bits and pieces of the dismantled shed - as a sort of aide memoir of what is there now. Bit like takling the best bits of a Model T Vintage car and blending them into the construction of a brand new Holden - made of carbon fibre, or plastic.
That is the argument that was used to mitigate the Princes Wharf design. They said they'd reuse some of the old building structure. You can vaguely make it out buried underneath the Hilton Hotel and the Apartments. But it is tokenism. Facadism. Sad.
The advice ARC has already received from the heritage report it commissioned jointly with Auckland City Council is very strong. ARC's own heritage officers provided advice to the executive team writing the report that was considered on Monday. They wrote in respect to the Matthews & Matthews Architects Heritage Assessment report:
...due to their high heritage values and ready adaptability, the heritage assessment recommends that serious consideration be given to retaining and adapting the sheds as part pof the redevelopment of Queens Wharf. The (ARC's) Cultural Heritage Team concurs with this recommendation, as the presumption should be to protect and preserve heritage items of high significance. In designing any temporary or permanent development of Queens Wharf, it is our view that at least one of the sheds (Shed 10 is the least altered and in best condition of the two) should be retained and sensitively adapted for a new short-term or long-term use...
You don't get much clearer advice than that. But that wasn't the advice that was given to ARC councillors. Oh dear no. It got watered down by those preparing the ARC council meeting report. Here's what Councillors got to read from their Chief Executive and his staff:
The heritage assessment recommends that serious consideration be given to
retaining and adapting the sheds as part of the redevelopment of Queens Wharf. The
Council’s resolution of December 22 to endorse QW04 as the basis of the
development of Queens Wharf carries with it the consequential requirement that both
be removed to achieve the design. The proposed staged development set out in this
report also requires the removal of both sheds before the Rugby World Cup.
Through the development of the proposal, Government representatives have
repeatedly expressed their consideration that, despite the heritage value of the
sheds, their location, the limitations on what can be done to them to meet the
requirements of the site as a cruise terminal, and the major uncertainty over the cost of attempting to modify them, mean that they obstruct both the short term and long term development of the wharf and that, on balance, they should be removed.
In recognition of the heritage value of the wharf and the sheds, it is recommended
that, as part of the next stage of the development, the Council complete a heritage
assessment of the site with the intention of recording its heritage, maximizing the
retention and integration of heritage features on the wharf into the development, reusing materials from the sheds and ensuring appropriate interpretation of the history and heritage of the wharf is reflected in the development of the wharf.
It is further recommended that, when the sheds are removed, that they are
dismantled to maximize the recovery and reuse of materials in the development.
Spot the difference - is my challenge.
So. ARC got a very clear steer from the heritage report that it commissioned. It got very clear advice from its own expert staff. But it got all boiled down to "dismantling" by the Chief Executive, no doubt in cahoots with ARC's Chairman.
Practice what you preach guys.
You demonstrate serious conflict of interest here - Cruise Ships before Heritage - where's the balance. Hence the whiff of hypocrisy...